This article critically examines several theoretical perspectives which deal with the origins of capitalism in western Europe. The author examines the main arguments elaborated in these perspectives and attempts to rethink the long-term history of socioeconomic and political processes. In seeking to comprehend the transition from feudalism to capitalism, one should attempt to look at the European Middle Ages without prejudice and see to what extent, why, and how embryonic forms and features of capitalism within an intercity-state system came into being, matured, expanded, and intensified during the "long" sixteenth century. An alternative theoretical framework is presented, based on the hypothesis that one should move beyond the limited focus of the nation-state as the exclusive unit of analysis, in order to comprehend the European transition.
[ A substantially revised version of this article was translated into Japanese and published in the Japanese quarterly journal KAN, Vol. 34, July 2008, p.186-211.]
Review of the Fernand Braudel Center
Mielants, Eric, "Perspectives on the Origins of Merchant Capitalism in Europe" (2000). Sociology & Anthropology Faculty Publications. 45.
Mielants, Eric. “Perspectives on the Origins of Merchant Capitalism in Europe” in Review of the Fernand Braudel Center, Vol. 23 (2), Fall 2000, p.229-292.